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This film was overshadowed by, and ultimately lost in The Matrix, just
like Dark City. Each of these films dealt with our perception of
reality, but this one here, at least in Book form, was the absolute
first, decades prior to the Wachowski brothers.
Released in a flurry of invisibility in May 1999, exactly two months after The Matrix came out, this film was quietly swallowed up in The Matrix, although it was almost the exact same premise as The Matrix.
Produced by world-destruction expert Roland Emmerich, directed by Josef Rusnak (who is directing this year's "Beyond") - For a film made by Emmerich, this film does not have 15-mile wide spaceships, or a huge Pyramid ship and a Ring that flushes sideways, or environmental disasters, or Mel Gibson waving Flags that had not been conceived yet... This film is a very quiet, Noir film, completely different than the normal Faire that Emmerich's company Centropolis produces.
With a cast headed by Craig Bierko, a very pretty Gretchen Mol, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Dennis Haysbert, not to mention a hippy version of Vincent D'Onofrio along with a Bartender version of same, this film was the first to ask the question: "What if... what we perceive as reality is not reality at all, but some constructed thing?" - But whereas The Matrix has only The Matrix, this film deals with Worlds within Worlds, a concept and direction that I thought The Matrix was taking in the final scene of "Matrix Reloaded" but was disappointed to be proved wrong with "Matrix Revolutions".
That is where story-wise, this film supersedes The Matrix, it has a much superior concept driving the storyline. Where the Matrix was globbed together by the Wachowski brothers, this film was actually based on a world-class science fiction novel "Simulacron-3" written by Daniel F. Galouye. An Earlier version of this story was made for TV in West Germany in 1973 as "World on a Wire".
In 1937 Los Angeles, Hannon Fuller (Armin Mueller-Stahl), leaves a Hotel, visits a bar and gives bartender Jerry Ashton (Vincent D'Onofrio) a note to be given to a man named "Douglas Hall". Needless to say, Ashton immediately opens the note. Fuller goes home and goes to bed, and wakes up in 1999 Los Angeles... He was in a Virtual Construct of 1937 Los Angeles.
This is the beginning of the film - in 1999 LA, some bad things happen and Douglas Hall is to be blamed for them... Until he meets Fuller's Daughter Jane (Grethen Mol) who can give him an alibi - Except for the fact that she does not exist and Fuller "Never Had a Daughter" according to cop Dennis Haysbert. From there, this film wades between 1937 Los Angeles and 1999 Los Angeles... And we have to guess how deep the construct goes. In a way, this is similar to the film "Inception" and the "Dream within a Dream within a Dream within a Dream" concept... Except that this is no dream, as Ashton tells Hall: "We are real people and you are screwing with us".
If The Matrix had not bombarded the market with it's weaker concept of this plot, this film might have been the sleeper of 1999. As it is, I think this film is the better of the two, although I liked both of them.
It starts as a typical VR story: Oh dear, if we can create worlds that
are exactly like ours, is our world real or is it just another video
game? What's reality? What's reality?! Okay, so we've been here before.
Many many times before. What is different about this movie is that it
actually simplifies the situation by giving a solution to it. In order
to provide a sort of reasonable climax that isn't just throwing
everything into the wind and saying, "Haha, now you aren't certain, are
you?" this movie does what seems to be the blatantly obvious and gives
the simulacrum a soul.
THAT'S awesome because honestly it's nice to have a sort of direction for this philosophical discussion, and instead of making it, "If they have a soul, what does that mean to us?" it just ends with the, "But they have a soul... leave them alone." This is a refreshing break from everything else along this topic we've been subject to.
Unfortunately, that's about all that's good about this movie. Flat acting holding up a slightly misappropriated pace centers around a story that seemed to struggle, really struggle to find a way to fit in at least a little violence and a love story. A few blatant plot-holes coincide with a hidden enemy whose motivations are incredibly contrived and forced. This film doesn't feel or work as well as it should, and it seems utterly removed from the spectators, almost as if it's so caught in its own world that it doesn't really care about being a story, it just cares about getting the job done.
Yet as a practice in mise-en-scene and as one of the few movies of its subject matter that decides to actually conclude its message, it's still something to be appreciated in its own way.
Like Dark City before it, The Thirteenth Floor uses dark textures to
maximise the effects of the disturbing issues it addresses. A superbly
written script sucks us into the ideas the story is exploring before
shaking loose another layer of stuff to think about. As Dark City moved
the buildings and furniture around, The Thirteenth Floor moves the
characters around different times - is anyone real or are we being
treated to someone's imagination? The acting is top class throughout,
the screenplay deftly executed, and the cinematography brilliantly
evocative of what we are supposed to feel. There is very little to find
fault with. What does surprise me is that this film has not received a
Well worthy of 9/10.
Pretty interesting movie in general, but with some flaws. While watching, I
was continuously being reminded of other movies (which is a bad thing). I
know that The Thirteenth Floor didn't rip off these other movies, but it did
stumble into its share of cliches. When Armin Mueler-Stahl is walking in and
everyone greets him even though he doesn't know them; reminded me of The
Graduate with Benjamin at the hotel. The scene when the cop pulls over
Ashton and finds the body in the trunk reminded me of just about every
movie. And the idea that their world was artificially created and their is
an end point signifying a fake world, definitely reminded me of Dark City.
Finally, the dumb chase scene near the end where the elevator door is
closing and Bierko just barely gets his hand in to prevent it. Bullets fly
and it's a shame.
There was one really cool thing that I noticed. The same song that the band is playing in a '30s scene is again played by a live band in a '90s scene when Bierko and Mol are dancing. Very nice special effects too. The acting was good, with the main characters sometimes acting in three different roles. For a great movie with Bierko in it, see Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas; Bierko is simply hilarious in the scenes that he appears.
The ideas that the movie presented were very interesting. I wish the writer and director would have followed the philosophical implications instead of what they did. It should have showed the hopelessness and despair that the characters of the artificial world would now be going through, for example; the cop (who throws in his share of dumb lines), instead of the lovely and uplifting final scene. It would have made for a much more powerful ending. So, good; but could have been better. Worth your time though.
Almost every review compares this movie to either "The Matrix" or "The
Dark City" -- mostly unfavorably.
I don't know about anyone, but I thought this was better than "The Matrix", which was too polished and ritzy for my liking.
I've always had trouble understanding the hype surrounding "The Matrix". It's a fine movie, but it's also extremely overrated. And all the movies, with a similar premise, that were produced after it, are now destined to live in its shadow. Not fair.
I won't even mention "The Dark City", because, to me, it was *utter* crap. I hated it.
"The Thirteenth Floor" is a griping, atmospheric, well-acted movie with a decent plot. It doesn't have the "hi-tech" feel of "The Matrix", but that is what I like about it.
I'd gladly watch it again, and recommend it to anyone, who likes a decent sci-fi story.
Well, well. What a surprise I got here watching this 11 years old
After watching the Inception, searching about reviews on it on the net and more good Sci-Fi movies, I noticed the name of this movie.
I can tell you that I was amazingly surprised of the quality, act, story, ambiance and the final twist of this movie. Although there are not much CGI compared to these days movies, it keeps the viewer hooked to the story and characters.
For me it is in the same category as Dark City, The Matrix and now the Inception.
Very underrated. A great solid, multi layer and feel good Sci-Fi movie. One of those at the end you start looking around thinking, What If ...!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well this is not only an original thriller but a pretty good one too.
Although it sure makes a little bell ring in my head (SPOILER
AHEAD<>WARNING MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD), for the way the film goes
reminded me a lot of eXistenZ. However these two films are not the same.
Whereas the twist is saved for the ending in eXistenZ in The Thirteenth
Floor you are told in the film a long time before the film ends, plus you
can figure it out before if you really search for something and if you keep
your attention, which I didn't (END OF SPOILER<>START READING AGAIN).
Furthermore there really isn't that much to say, the effects were good as
was the acting and the plot. The only thing that I really didn't like that
much in this film was, that it sometimes was too predictable and I think
it's a pity, because it kind of made the film a bit worse than it actually
was, because it was an entertaining and exciting movie. This film was just
the way a thriller is intended and meant to be.
7 out of 10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The first thing you're stuck by while watching this movie is how
stylish is it, both in terms of look and movement. A very odd concept:
a murder mystery set in 1930s Los Angeles by way of virtual reality.
Indeed, it's like the technology (very '90s) hopped in the sack with
the design elements of "Gattaca" and nine months later, "The Thirteenth
Floor" was born.
Solid performances from the cast, notably Craig Bierko's accused man, straining to get his questions answered before the cops get him (which includes the likable-but-still menacing Dennis Haysbert). And before I forget, the quite fetching Gretchen Mol. Not really much in the way of character development, but it helps that the focus here is on the central mystery plot.
But it's a story that keeps the viewer thinking from the very beginning, and one that leads to a nice surprise of an ending (not a shocker). And overall terrific production design that plunges you right into Los Angeles, 1937.
Don't be misguided by the reviews saying this movie sides with ones
like Blade Runner or Matrix. While I must admit it clearly had the
potential to do so, in the end, well, it just isn't so.
The plot of this film is very interesting. I wonder the book in which it's inspired must be very good. The characterization of the Los Angeles of 1930 is great. But the movie itself is very badly directed and most of the actors are just equally bad. Thi first half of the movie is very rushed what makes the characters seem pretty unreasonable and superficial.
So the in the end the result is just an ordinary movie. It's a little enjoyable, but far from memorable. I give it 5/10 for the studio having wasted such a good history.
I will immediately say that this movie was panned by critics a like. I will also say that this is one of the most thought provoking sci-fi movies that has come out in recent years. Think of Inception but 12 years earlier. It's also very similar to Matrix without the violence. More of an artistic-noir look at Virtual Reality. If you're a sci-fan give this title a chance, you won't be disappointed. The acting is also underrated. Most of the actors in this movie have gone onto become big time actors. I think the problem was that Matrix came out at the same time and provided the de-facto standard for new Sci-fi, and what they are supposed to be.
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